We all have high hopes for being successful in 2018 with our New Year resolutions. However research by the University of Scranton suggests that just 8% of people achieve their New Year’s goals. Not because they didn’t change their behaviours or actions, it is simply because they didn’t change their thinking. We are hardwired to have negative bias, which works against us being successful and being happy.
Our negativity bias is the asymmetrical way we perceive negative and positive experiences. In simple terms this means – negative experiences tend to exert a greater psychological impact on us than positive experiences of the same magnitude. A moment of sadness is usually more disruptive to our day than one of our equal moments of happiness. So at the first sign we haven’t kept our New Year’s resolution we focus on this instead of embracing all the positive changes we have made. This negative thinking has a detrimental impact on us and our happiness.
Why do we have this negativity bias? It is the product of our evolution and a basic survival technique. We have always been skewed towards threats. Survival of our ancestors was the biggest ‘win’, which meant that the people who made it were those who were most risk adverse – and we have their DNA. It is easy to see why negativity is part of our key cognition as we are hardwired to pay more attention to negative information. Although it helps us survive, we now don’t have the same threats as our predecessors and the negative bias hinders our ability to thrive and be happy.
The good news is that we can rewire our brains and address this imbalance. Here are 3 simple ways to challenge your inbuilt negativity bias and hardwire your happiness in 2018.
1. Accept that we have a negativity bias and work with it.
When our emotions are triggered by a negative experience we should consider their validity and make a conscious effort to identify them, understand them and let them go if their are not of use. For example, if you feel angry, what is causing your anger? Frustration? Disappointment? Annoyance? Labeling specific emotions will enable you to better identify where your anger comes from so you can address the cause more effectively. Every thought, idea and emotion is a compound of many different pieces that you can isolate and understand better and in doing so become better at managing them.
2. Separate your thoughts from YOU the thinker.
Byron Katie, the author of Loving What I, has a successful set of questions that help us achieve this. She suggests that you spell out your negative and stressful thoughts and ask the questions:
Is it true?
Can you absolutely know it’s true?
How do you react, what happens when you believe that thought?
Who would you be without that thought?
Be conscious in the moments of positivity. Seek deeply all the elements of that moment. If it is a beautiful view – breathe it in, using all your senses to absorb that experience. When we consciously interact with our positive experiences we can strengthen their neurological presence in our brains. Deep seat the positive so it solidifies and is easier to experience again and again.
As leaders it is important that we are aware of our own signs, signals and behaviours. When we are in situations where we feel/perceive/think negatively we need to consider what we want want to perpetuate. We may not realise that we are not getting the best out of others if we are not conscious of the impact and importance of our own actions, behaviours and thoughts
Getting a fresh perspective and challenging our thinking be can be insightful, and transform our ability to lead better and be happier. If you would like to get a new and fresh perspective this year book a free session with the Thinking Academy to see and feel the difference a coaching conversation can make.